Please Speak Spanish With Me

Due to a new awesome course I’m taking, (more on this to come) I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity and how being in a different culture and surrounded by a language that’s not my mother tongue, affects my identity.

I’ve talked before about how growing up I was only allowed to watch movies in English. Now, I’ve come to realize how beneficial this has been for me, but there’s nothing like a university experience to make you question everything you know. So I’ve come to reflect lately: did I lose anything or miss out on anything (besides questionable translations of children’s cartoons, of course) when I became completely surrounded by English? If language and identity are so interlinked, am I missing a part of my identity?

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Well to answer this I might as well quickly explore if English and its attached culture has in any way taken over or replaced Spanish in my life or the Latin, Colombian-Ecuadorian culture in me.

First thing that comes to mind is that because I was in contact with English constantly, since I not only watched TV and movies in English but also read books and listened to music exclusively in that language, the only times that I had contact with Spanish was when I was speaking it. Thus it is often for me easier to communicate in my second language. This doesn’t mean that I am any less proficient in Spanish than in English, but because I am in contact more often with one than the other it is often easier to express myself. For instance, could I write this  without stumbling constantly over the idiomatic expressions in Spanish? Probably not; even in high school in Ecuador(i.e a Spanish-speaking country) it was far easier for me to write in English than Spanish (I needed google translate to translate from English, not to it).

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I don’t doubt that when an individual doesn’t use a certain language often enough, they become less proficient in its use.  I’ve seen it happen, not only to bilingual speakers but also with people who go live in a place where their first language is not the one widely used there. I can constantly sense this when a Spanish word drops from my mind and I have to resort to code switching (linguistics lingo for mixing two or more langugages while speaking) more often than not. More so, I noticed, because I am studying linguistics, that even when I introduced myself I stopped pronouncing my name, last name included, the Spanish way, like an Anglophone would, not how I would normally pronounce it.  /i s a β̞ e l/  à [ɪzəbɛl] (You didn’t think that I would miss out on showing how much of a linguistics nerd I am, did you?

The other thing is that I feel like  foreign influence and the idea of a “well rounded education” has forced my own culture to take a backseat in my education in favor of others. For example, despite living in Ecuador for fifteen years I have little knowledge on its history, economy, or political environment. Maybe they gained independence from the Spanish in 1820ish? And the first president was called Flores? And of Colombia, my own country I of course know absolutely nothing. But I can, however, recite the entire history of both world wars, a conflict neither country, Ecuador or Colombia, took part in (I think.)

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If I, who grew up surrounded by my own native culture, speaking my native tongue on a daily basis which is used all over the world, who was taught (although not a lot ) about her history and overall grew up in all ways secure of my identity; struggle to keep it present and pertinent, how massive is the struggle that the people trying to keep the aboriginal languages and cultures alive now a days face! How hard is it to keep their tongue alive when they not only live in the middle of a country that doesn’t widely speak share the same language, but they also live in a modern world greatly encourages and favors the use of English or others. Finally it seems proper to me to end this reflection with the following question: Can culture and diversity survive the modern “globalized” time?

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I’m a tour guide, ask me how!

Hello everybody! I’m so excited for year 2! But before we dive into phonetics class, giant course loads, and how to make Mc&cheese at 2am with only a kettle and some string, let’s talk about my first job, shall we?

Well it was during the summer of 2016. I had chosen to stay in Canada instead of going back to my home town of Quito so I could advance my career during the dog days of summer. As luck would have it I managed to get, wait for it, THE BEST JOB EVER. i.e. Tour guide for York University. It’s one of the best jobs because you not only get to meet so many people from all over the globe, talk to sooo many students, and hopefully make a mark on their search for a university (fingers crossed!) But I also got to work alongside so many wonderful people. Also, being a tour guide is  great because it boosts your confidence to level 70 (just so you know.)

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Working hard, clearly

But let me tell you, mes amis, there’s no moment in this world is more awkward: not walking into the wrong classroom, not waving at somebody who was waiving at the person behind you, not calling the teacher mom, than being a tour guide and having your audience look at you blankly throughout the entire tour, (ok, maybe that’s a bit of a hyperbole). But even so, my bad tours were not the groups that walked too slow, or spoke a lot, it wasn’t even that one tour where I lost like 10 people (you know who you are and I’m sorry!) They were the ones that said nothing and didn’t respond to what I was saying. Those seconds that turned into minutes, that turned into hours, of me looking expectantly at the after saying, “does anyone have a question?” and hearing crickets chirping on the sidebars were bad. Was I getting to them? Did I switch into Klingon without noticing? Blaring alarms were going on inside my head. Woah! I wonder if this is how professors feel during class…

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So if there is one thing I learned from my experience this summer, and I could leave you with a single piece of advice for this new year is this: Never, ever be afraid to ask questions. And look I get it. People don’t always feel comfortable speaking up, or they are shy. Trust me, I am one of those people. But if anything by asking  a question not only are you helping yourself, but questions reassure the speaker too, and they make them feel, heard, and validated, and overall great.

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Thus, ask any passerby where on Earth is room R S537.  Ask your professor/teacher about that thing that’s been bothering you for weeks, or try to ask one question each class (questions are easier than answers.) And if you can’t come up with any smart questions, try to ask one that will make the rest of the class laugh. Ask what the meaning of life is. Ask why is it that your key works only 70% of the time and not at all in that other door. Heck! Go to that cute girl or guy you’ve been drooling over since forever and ask them how their day was and what’s their position on the cake vs. pie debate! No te quedes con la duda. 

And finally, do you have any questions about Glendon/ York U/ The Great Gatsby/ residence life vs. commuter life/ my favorite colour/ causes of World War One/ linguistics?

 Ask me!

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The Earthquake in Ecuador

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I am fortunate enough to have more than one home; I think that I actually have three. To me, home is Glendon, is where I long to be after a long day of braving the wind and snow. It is where my life and my future are right now; after a long day of walking downtown my pace quickens when I see that York University sign on Bayview and Lawrence.Home is Colombia, my grandmother’s cooking, horseback riding with my grandfather up in El Retiro and eating sweeting popcorn surrounded by my cousins in a movie theatre.

And last, and maybe more so, home is Ecuador. Say “think home” and the first image that comes to mind is a great green mountain. This is where I grew up, my parent live here. My room with all my books and pictures is here.  I read my first words here, I made friends, I graduated high school; I built all my hopes and dreams from inside the shelter of the Andes, even if they are not to be fulfilled within.

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